Interview: Bobby Benjamin (Pineapple Black) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Following on from the controversial Girls World exhibition, which made national and international news headlines, Pineapple Black return with Training Montage. The new contemporary art space in Middlesbrough’s Hillstreet Centre is an artist led initiative founded by Bobby Benjamin and Stephen Irving and has made a name for itself across the arts scene in its relatively short existence.  Their new exhibition previews on Friday 24th May (5.30pm-8.30pm) and is open to the public Saturday 30th May – 27th June (10am-4pm), so we caught up with Bobby Benjamin to find out what we can expect and what else they have up their sleeves in the near future.

What is ‘Training Montage’?
Training Montage is the 4th exhibition by Pineapple Black. The exhibition is a deliberation on the theme of ‘collage’ and will showcase the selected works of 16 artists, working across a range of mediums.

Tell me more about the exhibition at Pineapple Black.
The exhibition builds upon curatorial ideas co-director Stephen Irving and I began to explore in Godfather Too, the second exhibition by Pineapple Black. We wanted to create something resplendent in its diversity but woven aesthetically. We ignored technique, experience, subject matter, and focused colour and form. It was there we began to draw similarities between our curatorial process and the techniques we use in making.

Not all the artists in this exhibition would describe themselves as collage artists. The work ranges from painting to sculpture to performance and comes from a wide range of established and emerging practitioners. The theme will be evident in some of their work and not so immediate in others. I’m expecting the show to be a mash-up, a beautiful mess. The show will also feature a DJ set from Mikey Smith.

In the digital age, how important is the collage?
I think, over the years, collage has almost become a dirty word. I think it is seen by some as twee, akin to scrapbooking and I’m not sure why. Collage, by definition; a collection or combination of various things, is surely what intrinsically links all genres of making. I call myself an installation artist but, when I make a piece, it could just as easily be described as collage. Is a painting just a collage of different coloured paint? In a primal sense, does anything other than collage exist? These are some of the ideas Stephen and I wanted to investigate visually with this exhibition.

Of course, the art of making, of collage, of cutting and sticking, will always be important but this show will be very non-traditional. More and more we are seeing digital collage at exhibitions and this is something represented in Training Montage.  

The project celebrates the wealth of creative talent that exists in the region. How healthy is the local arts scene at the moment?
A big part of any project I’m involved with is to support emerging artists in the region. In Teesside we are blessed with an active scene and some very exciting artists and curators and this is something that will be highlighted on the 24th. Alongside our own exhibition, there is the launch of the new Auxiliary gallery and the summer show by all girl art collective Hun all across one evening to form a Boro Art Crawl.

With projects like Creative Factory in place to support the regions artists, forward thinking institutions like the Northern School of Art and great existing galleries like Platform A, the area is producing not only fantastic emerging artists but also a growing number of established ones who are basing their practices in Teesside rather than hopping on the train to London.

What projects do you have coming up in the future?
Launching alongside the new Pineapple Black exhibition, there will be the exhibition ‘Renounce’. It is an exhibition I’m curating which deals with the idea of relinquishing responsibility. Over the past couple of years my practice has centred around the use recycled polymer forms, made on site at an industrial recycling plant. In ‘Renounce’ these forms will be remixed by other artists. These forms have been at the crux of my practice for so long, i became intrigued by the idea of letting them go. It is a strange feeling to give away something to which you feel so attached, having formed a working relationship. Artists Kev Howard and Stuart Langley have each personally selected pieces from the collection which they have taken away and re-imagined, away from my gaze, through the mediums of video (Howard) and light (Langley).

Following Training Montage, Stephen and I are working with Durham Ustinov University and their climate change professor on an exhibition which will launch at Pineapple Black in June and will feature the work amazing range of artists, educators and professionals.

I’m also still putting on exhibitions with my nomadic curatorial project Dovetail Joints and have a new show lined up for June working with Pellethead’s Shaun Elliott, the fabulous emerging artist John James Perange and my good friends Disgraceland which is going to be an all singing, all dancing, arty party so stay tuned for that.   


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